Charles XIV John of Sweden

Charles XIV & III John
Charles John of Sweden and Norway by François Gérard
King of Sweden and Norway
Reign 5 February 1818 – 8 March 1844
Coronation 11 May 1818 (Sweden)
7 September 1818 (Norway)
Predecessor Charles XIII/II
Successor Oscar I
Spouse Désirée Clary
Oscar I
Full name
Jean-Baptiste Jules
House House of Bernadotte
Father Henri Bernadotte
Mother Jeanne de St. Vincent
Born 26 January 1763(1763-01-26)
Pau, France
Died 8 March 1844(1844-03-08) (aged 81)
Stockholm, Sweden
Burial Riddarholmskyrkan, Stockholm
Religion Lutheran
prev Roman Catholic

Charles XIV & III John, also Carl John, Swedish and Norwegian: Karl Johan (26 January 1763 – 8 March 1844) was King of Sweden (as Charles XIV John) and King of Norway (as Charles III John) from 1818 until his death. Before he became king, he was also the Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo, in Southern Italy, between 1806 and 1810.

He was born Jean Bernadotte, distinguished from a namesake brother by the addition of Baptiste and had the full name of Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte by the time Karl also was added upon his Swedish adoption in 1810. He did not use Bernadotte in Sweden but founded the royal dynasty there by that name.

French by birth, Bernadotte served a long career in the French Army. He was appointed as a Marshal of France by Napoleon I, though the two had a turbulent relationship. His service to France ended in 1810, when he was elected the heir to the Swedish throne because the old Swedish royal family was dying out with King Charles XIII. Baron Carl Otto Mörner (22 May 1781 – 17 August 1868), who was a Swedish courtier, and obscure member of the Diet, advocated for the succession.

Early life and family

Bernadotte was born in Pau, France, as the son of Jean Henri Bernadotte (Pau, Béarn, 14 October 1711 – Pau, 31 March 1780), procurator at Pau, and wife (married at Boëil-Bezing, 20 February 1754) Jeanne de Saint-Vincent (Pau, 1 April 1728 – Pau, 8 January 1809). The family name was originally de Pouey, but was changed to Bernadotte - a surname of an ancestress - at the beginning of the 17th century. His brother Jean Bernadotte (Pau, 1754 – Pau, 8 August 1813) was eventually made 1st Baron Bernadotte and married Marie Anne Charlotte de Saint-Paul. Bernadotte himself added Jules to his first names later, from Julius Caesar, in the classicizing spirit of the French Revolution.


His paternal grandparents were Jean Bernadotte (Pau, 29 September 1683 – Pau, 3 October 1760) and wife (m. Pau, 1 May 1707) Marie du Pucheu dite de La Place (Pau, 6 February 1686 – Pau, 5 October 1773), daughter of Jacques du Pucheu dit de La Place and wife Françoise de Labasseur. Their maternal grandparents were Jean de Saint-Vincent (Boëil-Bezing, c. 1690 – Boëil-Bezing, 21 May 1762) and wife (m. Assat, 30 May 1719) Marie d'Abbadie de Sireix (Sireix, 25 March 1694 – Boëil-Bezing, 16 October 1752), daughter of Doumengé Habas d'Arrens and wife Marie d'Abbadie, Lay Abbess of Sireix. Finally, they were the great-grandsons of Jean Bernadotte (Pau, 7 November 1649 – Pau, 14 July 1689) and wife (m. Pau, 18 June 1674) Marie de la Barrère-Bertandot; he was in turn the son of Pierre Bernadotte and wife Margalide Barraquer and paternal grandson of Joandou du Poey, born in 1590, and wife Germaine de Bernadotte.

16. Pierre Bernadotte
8. Jean Bernadotte
17. Margalide Barraquer
4. Jean Bernadotte
9. Marie de La Barrère-Bertandot
2. Jean Henri Bernadotte
10. Jacques du Pucheu dit de Laplace
5. Marie du Pucheu dite de La Place
11. Françoise de Labasseur
1. Charles XIV John of Sweden
6. Jean de Saint Vincent
3. Jeanne de Saint Vincent
14. Doumengé Habas d'Arrens
7. Marie d'Abbadie de Sireix
15. Marie d'Abbadie, Abbesse Laïque de Sireix


Statue in Norrköping erected in 1846.

At Sceaux on 16 August 1798 he married Eugénie Bernhardine Désirée Clary, the daughter of a Marseille silk merchant, and sister of Joseph Bonaparte's wife Julie Clary - Eugenie had previously been engaged to Napoleon. Bernadotte and Eugénie had only one son, Oscar I of Sweden and Norway.

Military career

"Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Prince de Ponte-Corvo, roi de Suède, Maréchal de France" (1818). Painted by Joseph Nicolas Jouy, after François-Joseph Kinson

Bernadotte joined the army as a private in the Régiment de Royal-Marine on 3 September 1780, and first served in the newly conquered territory of Corsica. He was for a long time stationed in Collioure in the South of France and was after eight years promoted to sergeant. Following the outbreak of the French Revolution, his eminent military qualities brought him speedy promotion. He was promoted to colonel in 1792 and by 1794 was a brigadier attached to the army of the Sambre et Meuse. After Jourdan's victory at Fleurus (26 June 1794) he became a general of division. At the Battle of Theiningen (1796), Bernadotte contributed, more than anyone else, to the successful retreat of the French army over the Rhine after its defeat by the Archduke Charles of Austria. In 1797 he brought reinforcements from the Rhine to Bonaparte's army in Italy, distinguishing himself greatly at the passage of the Tagliamento, and in 1798 served as ambassador to Vienna, but had to quit his post owing to the disturbances caused by his hoisting the tricolour over the embassy.

From 2 July to 14 September he was Minister of War, in which capacity he displayed great ability. He declined to help Napoleon Bonaparte stage his coup d'état of November 1799, but nevertheless accepted employment from the Consulate, and from April 1800 to 18 August 1801 commanded the army in the Vendée.

Bernadotte as Crown Prince

On the introduction of the French Empire, Bernadotte became one of the Marshals of the Empire and, from June 1804 to September 1805, served as governor of Hanover. During the campaign of 1805, Bernadotte with an army corps from Hanover, co-operated in the great movement which resulted in the shutting off of Mack in Ulm. As a reward for his services at Austerlitz (2 December 1805) he became the 1st Sovereign Prince of Ponte Corvo (5 June 1806), but during the campaign against Prussia, in the same year, was severely reproached by Napoleon for not participating with his army corps in the battles of Jena and Auerstädt, though close at hand. In 1808, as governor of the Hanseatic towns, he was to have directed the expedition against Sweden, via the Danish islands, but the plan came to naught because of the want of transports and the defection of the Spanish contingent. In the war against Austria, Bernadotte led the Saxon contingent at the Battle of Wagram (6 July 1809), on which occasion, on his own initiative, he issued an Order of the Day attributing the victory principally to the valour of his Saxons, which order Napoleon at once disavowed. It was during the middle of that battle that Marshal Bernadotte was stripped of his command after retreating contrary to Napoleon's orders. Napoleon once commented after a battle that "Bernadotte hesitates at nothing." On St. Helena he also said that, "I can accuse him of ingratitude but not treason."

Offer of the Swedish throne

Bernadotte, considerably piqued, thereupon returned to Paris, where the council of ministers entrusted him with the defence of the Netherlands against the British expedition in Walcheren. In 1810, he was about to enter upon his new post as governor of Rome when he was unexpectedly elected the heir to King Charles XIII of Sweden, who was childless and old. He was elected partly because a large part of the Swedish Army, in view of future complications with Russia, were in favour of electing a soldier, and partly because Bernadotte was also very popular in Sweden, owing to the kindness he had shown to the Swedish prisoners during the recent war with Denmark. The issue of an heir to the Swedish throne had become acute since the previous crown prince Charles August had died of a stroke on 28 May 1810, just a few months after he had arrived in Sweden. The matter was decided by one of the Swedish courtiers, Baron Karl Otto Mörner, who, entirely on his own initiative, offered the succession to the Swedish crown to Bernadotte. Bernadotte communicated Mörner's offer to Napoleon, who treated the whole affair as an absurdity. The Emperor did not support Bernadotte but did not oppose him either. Bernadotte thereupon informed Mörner that he would not refuse the honor if he were duly elected. Although the Swedish government, amazed at Mörner's effrontery, at once placed him under arrest on his return to Sweden, the candidature of Bernadotte gradually gained favor there, and, on 21 August 1810, he was selected and elected the Crown Prince and made the Generalissimus of the Swedish Armed Forces. In that year he renounced the title of Prince of Ponte Corvo.

Crown Prince and Regent

Coronation of Karl III Johan as King of Norway

On 2 November Bernadotte made his solemn entry into Stockholm, and on 5 November he received the homage of the Riksdag of the Estates, and he was adopted by King Charles XIII under the name of "Charles John" (Karl Johan). Many honours were bestowed upon him, such as an honorary membership of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on November 21, 1810. The new Crown Prince was very soon the most popular and most powerful man in Sweden. The infirmity of the old King and the dissensions in the Privy Council of Sweden placed the government, and especially the control of foreign affairs, entirely in his hands. The keynote of his whole policy was the acquisition of Norway and Bernadotte proved anything but a puppet of France.

In 1813, he allied Sweden with Napoleon's enemies, Great Britain and Prussia, of the Sixth Coalition, in order to secure this. After the defeats at Lützen (2 May 1813) and Bautzen (21 May 1813), it was the Swedish Crown Prince who put fresh fighting spirit into the Allies; and at the conference of Trachenberg he drew up the general plan for the campaign which began after the expiration of the Truce of Plaswitz.

Charles John, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Army, successfully defended the approaches to Berlin and was victorious in battle against Oudinot in August and against Ney in September at the Battles of Grossbeeren and Dennewitz; but after the Battle of Leipzig he went his own way, determined at all hazards to cripple Denmark and to secure Norway, defeating the Danes at Bornhöved in December. His efforts culminated in the favourable Treaty of Kiel, wherein the allies recognized the Swedish claim to Norway. Norway entered a personal union with Sweden after losing the Swedish-Norwegian War of 1814.

King of Sweden and Norway

Swedish Royalty
House of Bernadotte
Bernadotte coa.svg
Charles XIV John
   Oscar I
Oscar I
   Charles XV
   Gustaf, Duke of Upland
   Oscar II
   Princess Eugenie
   August, Duke of Dalarna
Charles XV
   Lovisa, Queen of Denmark
   Carl Oscar, Duke of Södermanland
Oscar II
   Gustaf V
   Oscar, Duke of Gotland
   Eugén, Duke of Närke
   Carl, Duke of Västergötland
   Princess Margaretha
   Märtha, Crown Princess of Norway
   Astrid, Queen of Belgium
   Carl, Duke of Östergötland
Gustaf V
   Gustaf VI Adolf
   Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
   Erik, Duke of Västmanland
Gustaf VI Adolf
   Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten
   Sigvard, Duke of Uppland
   Ingrid, Queen of Denmark
   Bertil, Duke of Halland
   Carl Johan, Duke of Dalarna
   Princess Margaretha
   Princess Birgitta
   Princess Désirée
   Princess Christina
   Carl XVI Gustaf
Carl XVI Gustaf
   Crown Princess Victoria
   Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland
   Madeleine, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland
Equestrian in Stockholm depicting Charles XIV John.

As the union King, Charles XIV John, who succeeded to that title on 5 February 1818 following the death of Charles XIII, was initially popular in both countries. Upon his accession he converted from Roman Catholicism to the Lutheranism of the Swedish court. He would never learn to speak Swedish or Norwegian, though this did not pose a serious obstacle to his rule, since French was widely spoken by all of the aristocracy of the time.

Charles XIV John's reign witnessed the completion of the southern Göta Canal, begun 22 years earlier, to link Lake Vänern to the sea at Söderköping 180 miles to the east. Though his ultra-conservative views were unpopular, particularly from 1823 onwards, his dynasty never faced serious danger. Swedes and Norwegians alike were proud of a monarch with a good European reputation. Though the Riksdag of the Estates of 1840 meditated compelling him to supposedly abdicate, he survived that controversy, and his silver jubilee was celebrated with great enthusiasm in 1843.


Charles XIV John was the 909th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain and the 28th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword.

The main street of Oslo, Karl Johans gate, was named after him in 1852 - and the main base for the Royal Norwegian Navy, Karljohansvern, was named after him in 1854. The Fortress of Karlsborg (Karlsborgs fästning), located in Karlsborg Municipality (Karlsborgs kommun) in Västra Götaland, was also named in honor of him.

Charles XIV/III John
Born: 26 January 1763 Died: 8 March 1844
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Title created
Prince of Pontecorvo
Title next held by
Prince Lucien
Preceded by
Charles XIII/II
King of Sweden
Succeeded by
Oscar I
King of Norway
Political offices
Preceded by
Louis Marie de Milet de Mureau
French minister of War
2 July 1799 – 14 September 1799
Succeeded by
Edmond Louis Alexis Dubois-Crancé

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index